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Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann Partners With Leading Doctors and Scientists to Launch How We Feel, an App That Lets Everyone Help Track and Fight COVID-19

The new How We Feel app lets people in the U.S. self-report age, gender, zip code and any health symptoms. Health check-ins take less than a minute, but they could help researchers reveal outbreak hotspots and save lives.


The first time someone downloads the app and completes a health check-in, How We Feel will donate a meal to people in need through Feeding America—up to 10 million meals.

The app was created by The How We Feel Project, and is part of a nonprofit collaboration between Silbermann and an interdisciplinary group of researchers affiliated with the McGovern Institute, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Institute of Quantitative Social Science, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Doctors and researchers from leading academic institutions and a volunteer team from Pinterest, Inc. (NYSE: PINS), today announced The How We Feel Project (HWF), a nonprofit health research consortium whose mission is to make the world healthier by connecting citizens with the global health community.

The organization’s first product is a mobile app called How We Feel. The app prompts people—healthy or not—to share how they’re feeling, their age and their zip code. If a person is not feeling well, they can also share their symptoms and health conditions. Daily health “check-ins” take about 30 seconds. The How We Feel app is available for download today in the U.S. on iOS and Android, and via the web at http://www.howwefeel.org.

How We Feel does not ask users to create an account, and doesn’t ask for a name, phone number or email address. The aggregated information will be shared with select scientists, public health professionals, and doctors who need more data to continue fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Each health check-in may feel like a small act, but together they’ll make a huge difference for researchers like myself who are trying to understand this outbreak and develop intervention measures to control it,” said Xihong Lin, Professor of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Statistics, Harvard University, a member of the National Academy of Medicine. “The data gives us a bird's eye view of COVID-19 that helps us predict regions on the brink of an outbreak. Our analysis could uncover epidemiological characteristics of the outbreak and how the disease spreads through communities, identify outbreak hotspots, study the time course of symptoms as the disease spreads, estimate region-specific testing needs and strategies for setting up testing prioritization and new testing sites, and evaluate whether interventions such as social distancing have effects on reducing transmission. Our analysis could help policymakers and public health leadership to tune their response.” Lin has been a leading statistical and epidemiological researcher on analyzing COVID-19 data to assist with public health policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic and was a key collaborator on HWF.

Collaborators on HWF include quantitative scientists and public health and biomedical researchers from Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Weizmann Institute of Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Weill Cornell Medicine and a volunteer team of current and former Pinterest employees, including Silbermann. In addition to other statisticians, epidemiologists and biomedical researchers, the team includes Gary King, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science of Harvard University’s Privacy Insights Project, which specializes in developing “differential privacy” techniques to make data available to researchers while protecting participants’ individual identities.

Silbermann partnered closely with Feng Zhang, best known for pioneering CRISPR, a revolutionary gene-editing technique with the potential to help treat many human diseases. Zhang is a core institute member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. Zhang and Silbermann are friends from high school in Iowa, and as the outbreak grew in the U.S., they called each other to figure out how their two fields—biology and technology—could come together to solve for the lack of reliable health data from testing.

Since high school, my friend Feng Zhang and I have been talking about the enormous value of connecting citizens to the global health and research community,” said Ben Silbermann, co-founder and CEO of Pinterest. “When we saw how quickly COVID-19 was spreading, it felt like a critical moment to finally build that bridge between citizens and scientists that we’ve always wanted. How We Feel is an important first step.”

Silbermann and Zhang formed the new HWF nonprofit because they believed a fully independent organization with a keen understanding of the needs of public health researchers should develop and manage the app. Now, they’re looking for opportunities to collaborate globally. Zhang is working to organize an international consortium of researchers from 11 countries that have developed similar health status surveys. The consortium is called the Coronavirus Census Collective (CCC). Eran Segal, a computational biologist and professor at the Weizmann Institute, who created the Predict-Corona app in Israel, co-founded the CCC with Zhang.

COVID-19 is a global problem without boundaries, and we need a global response,” said Eran Segal, Professor of Computer Science and Applied Math, Weizmann Institute of Science “The Coronavirus Census Collective was formed to leverage the efforts of researchers from around the world that are working to collect health information from individuals. By pooling this data, we can learn even more about how to fight COVID-19.”

For each download of the app and first completed health check-in, Ben Silbermann and his wife, Divya Silbermann, will donate a meal to a family in need through Feeding America. The couple has pledged to donate up to 10 million meals.

It was an easy choice for us to pick Feeding America because they’ve worked with local food banks for more than 35 years. They know how to get help to the people who need it most right now,” said Divya Silbermann.

About The How We Feel Project

The How We Feel Project is a nonprofit consortium of scientists, public health researchers and technologists. The Project’s mission is to make the world healthier by connecting citizens to the global health and research community. The organization was co-created by collaborators from McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Institute of Quantitative Social Science, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine and the Weizmann Institute of Science as well as a volunteer team of current and former Pinterest employees, led by CEO and co-founder Ben Silbermann. The organization’s first effort, a mobile app called How We Feel, is designed to rapidly gather data to more accurately predict and fight the spread of COVID-19. It is available in the U.S. on iOS and Android. More information can be found at howwefeel.org.

Scientific, public health and biomedical collaborators include:

Feng Zhang, Ph.D.
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Core Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT

Xihong Lin, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Biostatistics
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Professor, Department of Statistics, Harvard University
Associate Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Eran Segal, Ph.D.
Professor of Computer Science and Applied Math
Weizmann Institute of Science

Yonatan Grad, M.D., Ph.D.
Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Casey Greene, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Director, Childhood Cancer Data Lab, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Jay Rajagopal, M.D.
Professor of Internal Medicine
Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School

Ophir Shalem, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Genetics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Gary King, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor
Harvard University

Mark Travassos, M.D., MSc
Assistant Professor
Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health
University of Maryland School of Medicine

John Openshaw, MD
Faculty Fellow, Center for Innovation in Global Health
Stanford University

Alexandros Sigaras, M.Sc.
Assistant Professor of Research in Physiology and Biophysics
Member, Englander Institute for Precision Medicine
Weill Cornell Medicine

Iman Hajirasouliha, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Computational Genomics in Computational Biomedicine
Member, Englander Institute for Precision Medicine
Weill Cornell Medicine

Andrea Sboner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Director, Informatics and Computational Biology, Englander Institute for Precision Medicine
Weill Cornell Medicine

Olivier Elemento, Ph.D.
Professor of Physiology and Biophysics
Director, Englander Institute for Precision Medicine
Weill Cornell Medicine


Contacts

Ben Silbermann
info@howwefeel.org
Press Assets